[Screen It]


(1997) (Nathan Lane, Lee Evans) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Minor Minor Mild Mild
Mild None Mild None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
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Mild Minor Minor Minor *Moderate

Comedy: Two brothers try to rid the mansion they've just inherited of an elusive mouse.
After the death of industrialist Rudolph Smuntz (WILLIAM HICKEY), his sons Ernie (NATHAN LANE) and Lars (LEE EVANS) find that not only have they inherited the Smuntz String Factory, but also an old dilapidated mansion. A series of mishaps and bad luck follow where Ernie's restaurant is closed down and Lars' wife, April (VICKI LEWIS), throws him out of the house for not selling the factory to investors.

Broke, and with nowhere to live, the two brothers arrive at their mansion. Although seriously in need of repair and knowing that the previous owner of the home was found locked in a trunk in the attic, Ernie and Lars spend the night. They later find that the house is actually a one of a kind structure built by a famous architect. Soon buyers are interested in the house, including Alexander Falko (MAURY CHAYKIN), a wealthy man who already owns many of the architect's other buildings. The brothers decide, however, to auction the house to get the most money for it. They have just a week to get it into selling shape, but find one obstacle in their way -- a cute, small brown mouse.

Knowing that rodents might bring the property value down, they set out to exterminate the mouse, but he proves to be quite elusive of their many efforts. After a while they give up and bring in Catzilla, a wild mangy cat, to do the job, but even he fails. Desperate and running out of time, they hire Caesar (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN), a gung ho exterminator, to do the job. When the mouse takes care of him, Ernie and Lars do what they can to get rid of the mouse before the day of the auction.

The cast won't draw many in, but the thought of a "Home Alone" type story with a mouse in the Macaulay Culkin part might just draw in many young kids.
For language, comic sensuality and mayhem.
  • NATHAN LANE plays the older, more sophisticated brother whose comic greed nearly leads to his ruin. He also becomes obsessed with getting rid of the mouse.
  • LEE EVANS plays the younger, more dimwitted brother who's responsible for starting much of the destructive mayhem while trying to get the mouse.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    Growing up as a kid in the 1960's, one of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings (long before the advent of cable, video games, or home VCR's) was to get up early, fix myself some cinnamon sugar toast, a big glass of chocolate milk, and then head downstairs to the old RCA TV. There I'd position myself about three feet away from the set and watch an hour and a half of Looney Tunes cartoons. They were simply the best -- far better than "Tom and Jerry" or even "Bullwinkle & Rocky" (although as an adult, I can better appreciate the humor of the latter).

    Sure, I enjoyed watching Bugs, the Road Runner, and Yosemite Sam, etc... but some of my favorites involved the little mice who would foil the attempts of the cat (or any other character) of catching them. They'd nail all of the furniture to the ceiling to psychologically torment the cat, or they'd tie a rope to his tail that snaked its way through the house, around the china, down a banister, and finally up the chimney where a rock attached to it would ultimately send the cat on a wild ride around the house. As a kid, it didn't get any better than that.

    I must not have been alone in those feelings for director Gore Verbinski and screenwriter Adam Rifkin have transformed my childhood delights into a live action, comedy film: "Mouse Hunt." While many will think this movie is just a rodent variation of the "Home Alone" movies, that series and this film can trace their origins straight back to those old Warner Brothers cartoons. In fact, it's surprising that Warner allowed Dreamworks, SKG, the new "kid" on the studio block, to make what's simply a big screen version of their old cartoons. All that's missing are the standard cartoon sticks of dynamite, a few large anvils, and a wooden crate with the name A.C.M.E. printed on the side. Maybe Warner owns the trademark on those.

    Of course the beauty of those cartoons was that they were only a few minutes long, and trying to extend that to an hour and a half feature and still retain the fun is quite difficult. The good news is that "Mouse Hunt" pretty much succeeds. At times the momentum slows and results in a film that's not quite as good as those cartoons, but it's still rather enjoyable. Much of that can be attributed to Verbinski who makes his feature film directorial debut.

    After a successful career of directing innovative TV commercials -- including the first of the Budweiser frog series -- he's used to cramming a lot of material into a short amount of time to get the most effective result. Where this film works best are in the short moments where we find ourselves down on the mouse's scale, and watch as he pulls every trick out of the bag to foil his attacker's efforts.

    Screenwriter Rifkin has created the obligatory behind the walls or in the baseboards scenes that director of photography Phedon Papamichael has filmed from the mouse's point of view. Showing the mouses miniature world of tunnels and passageways, Papamichael allows us to "be" the mouse and there are quite a few fun moments to be had. Much praise should also go the many teams responsible for the mouse's appearance. From the computer generated images, to Stan Winston's animatronics, and finally Boone Narr's mouse wrangling, the effects are quite realistic and enjoyable to watch.

    Whether the little mouse is scampering across the floor or swinging from a light bulb's pull chain from one shelf to the next (ala Indiana Jones), the results will delight kids and parents alike. Add in Alan Silvestri's score as well as the production design that includes vintage cars from the 40's and 50's -- both of which are highly reminiscent of those old Looney Tunes cartoons -- and the fond memories come rushing back from decades ago. Still, the film makers had to surround the hijinks with an hour and a half plot, and while it's adequate, it certainly isn't anything great. Simply there as a skeleton upon which to hang scene after scene of hijinks, one wishes that it alone were more humorous.

    Fortunately, Nathan Lane ("The Birdcage") and Lee Evans are cast as the bumbling, comedic leads and they draw much of the the attention away from the plot and toward themselves. Lane has always been a delight to watch in any role he's played, while relative newcomer Evans should delight the kids with antics. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young Andy Griffith (before the popular "The Andy Griffith Show" from the 50's) Evans should definitely be cast as Sheriff Taylor should they ever make a big screen remake of that show. From their slapstick moments to their obvious behavioral differences, Lane and Evans are a throwback to comedic teams of old. Our delight comes from watching what happens to them as the mouse foils their many attempts at catching him.

    Christopher Walken has a small part as a demented exterminator, and when he first appears as the gung ho mouse hunter, and knowing his reputation for playing somewhat unhinged characters, one expects some wild scenes. Unfortunately, they're mostly disappointing. While his moments are somewhat enjoyable to watch, he seems to have been restrained from really getting into his character. Now stereotyped into playing the wacky or crazed role when such services are needed, it's too bad Verbiniski and Rifkin didn't let Walken take his character to the next hilarious extreme and really let lose.

    That would have seemed inevitable considering the Terry Gilliam ("Brazil") inspired set designs (the dirty, but gargantuan string factory as well as the city pound filled with row after row and cage after cage of cats) and the funny, but somewhat ghoulish opening. The moment a body pops from a casket, flies through the air, and falls down an open manhole cover into the city sewer system certainly sets the tone for what's to follow. While the rest isn't quite as macabre, it's certainly different, but in a Looney Tunes type way. There's a thrilling, but fun, sequence where the mouse has to avoid nails being fired into a baseboard by Lars, and another where the two men have a bad encounter with the hundreds of mousetraps they've carefully laid on the floor.

    If you're fond of the old Looney Tunes cartoons, you'll probably enjoy this film much as I did. If on the other hand, you're looking for a "Home Alone" type movie, but without so much malicious intent, then this is the film for you and the kids. After all, the mouse is pretty much only defending himself (instead of the kid purposefully trying to hurt the intruders), and he's certainly cuter and more fun to watch then either Macaulay Culkin or his recent replacement Alex D. Linz. While this film could have been a little better, it's still a decent big screen adaption of those old cartoon shorts. We give "Mouse Hunt" a 6.5 out of 10.

    If you took any of the "Home Alone" movies, toned down the malicious mayhem, and substituted a mouse for the kid, you'd pretty much know the content of this film. There's plenty of slapstick violence where people are whacked in the head, blown across the room, or have things fall on them. There are not as many imitative moments as there are in those "Home Alone" movies, but some items are still probably best left alone. Such scenes, a bit of mild language, and a few moments of "sensual" humor give the film its PG rating, but none of the material is too bad. Still, since young children will want to see this film, you should read through the listings to make sure it's appropriate for them before heading off to the theater.

  • People drink wine at Ernie's restaurant.
  • People drink champagne and martinis at the auction.
  • A man takes a large bite of food and unknowingly crunches into a large roach inside it. Someone else notices the bitten in half cockroach on the plate, and the man then spits out the chewed up food. We then see the cut in half roach crawl out of that food.
  • Ernie and Lars try to get the mouse with a vacuum cleaner that eventually hits the sewage line that begins filling the bag. It eventually explodes, covering the two in raw sewage.
  • Caesar eats a mouse dropping from the floor (to "test" it).
  • Some may view the twosome's efforts at killing the small, "defenseless" mouse as having both, but when they ultimately get the chance, they can't do it.
  • April kicks Lars out of their house for not selling the factory, but she comes around again when she hears that he's inherited a valuable mansion.
  • The opening sequence where it's raining and dramatic music plays as a casket is carried from a church may be unsettling to the youngest of viewers.
  • Some younger kids may also be a little frightened when the brothers first enter the house that looks like a typical haunted house (both inside and out).
  • The brothers see a menacing looking shadow on the wall and scream in terror (but it turns out to be just a jack-in-the-box).
  • The mouse runs through his passageway trying to avoid being hit by the nails sent into the baseboard by Lars. Soon the mouse is surrounded and trapped by nails with only one spot left for the final nail that might mean his death by impalement.
  • A mangy, crazed looking cat may be unsettling to the youngest of viewers (particularly when seen from the mouse's point of view).
  • Rifle: Fired by Ernie at the mouse several times.
  • Phrases: "Shut up," "Bastard," "Nuts" (crazy), "See you in hell" (said to the mouse), and "I hate you."
  • Kids may want to imitate some of the slapstick mayhem listed under "Violence."
  • Kids may get the idea to try to "kill" a small family pet (since this is done for laughs in the movie and the mouse always manages to survive).
  • Likewise, they may set mousetraps (if available) across the floor for laughs, or as a trap for the family cat (which is what the mouse does to a cat in the movie).
  • Caesar eats a mouse dropping from the floor (to "test" it).
  • Ernie tries climbing up the inside of a chimney after the mouse.
  • The mouse pops open a natural gas valve and carries matches up to Lars while he's looking up the chimney at Ernie who's stuck there. Lars then strikes the matches and the resulting explosion knocks him across the room (where a cabinet then falls on him) and blows Ernie out the top of the chimney. Played for laughs with no long lasting injuries, kids might get the wrong idea about playing with natural gas.
  • None.
  • There's just a tiny bit of ominous and/or scary music (for younger kids), plus a bit more suspenseful sounds to go along with some of the suspenseful scenes.
  • None.
  • 1 S.O.B., 1 damn, 1 hell, 2 uses of "God," and 1 use each of "God Forsaken," "Oh my God," and "For God's sakes" as exclamations.
  • April surprises Lars in his office wearing just a teddy (he's run into his office with only bales of string covering his groin area -- after the factory's machinery pulled off his clothes, but we don't see any nudity). Later Lars tells Ernie, "We made love in a way that's only seen in nature films."
  • Some ladies show a bit of cleavage in the dresses they wear.
  • Seeing that the mouse has gone down into a woman's cleavage, Lars puts his hand way down inside her dress. Seeing this, her friend grabs Ernie's hand and puts it down inside her dress.
  • The mouse then gets inside Lars' pants (unbeknownst to anyone else at the auction) and Ernie bends down to his zipper and says, "I'm gonna get it out."
  • Some workers in Cuba smoke cigars.
  • A woman smokes at the auction.
  • The funeral of Mr. Smuntz opens the film, but neither Ernie nor Lars seems too upset about it.
  • April wants a divorce from Lars once she learns that he refused to sell the factory, and she makes him move out of the house.
  • The similarity of this film to the Warner Brothers cartoons your kids probably still watch.
  • What to do if you find a mouse in the house.
  • Lars tries to get a ceramic egg off his finger. When he finally succeeds, it flings through the air and strikes another man on the head.
  • April throws cups and plates at Lars after learning that he refused to sell the factory.
  • Lars accidently hits Ernie in the face with a bat.
  • Lars tries to hit the mouse with a broomstick, but hits Ernie instead. He later does the same with a large mallet.
  • A hammer head falls off and lands in a bucket that falls from the roof and then hits Ernie on the head.
  • Lars and Ernie fall and roll across many mousetraps that snap onto their bodies and faces.
  • A man at the animal pound zaps a wild and crazed cat with an electric cattle prod (we only see the flashes of light).
  • Disgruntled string workers break the glass in the door of Lar's office.
  • The mouse chews through the rope of a dumbwaiter sending it, and the cat, crashing to the basement (not seen).
  • A bus hits Ernie (he's okay although he does go to the hospital).
  • Caesar is pulled through the floors of the house and down through the stairs after the mouse has attached his cable to his truck's wench.
  • Kitchen shelving falls onto Ernie and Lars. Lars then accidentally hits Ernie with a skillet who returns the "favor."
  • The mouse pops open a natural gas valve and carries matches up to Lars while he's looking up the chimney at Ernie who's stuck there. Lars then strikes the matches and the resulting explosion knocks him across the room (where a cabinet then falls on him) and blows Ernie out the top of the chimney.
  • Ernie fires several rifle shots at the mouse. He finally puts the gun down into a hole in the floor and fires, but hits a flea bomb instead and blows out most of the floor below him and Lars.
  • Lars throws an orange at Ernie, but instead it hits the mouse and knocks him silly.
  • A woman's hat catches on fire (from a cigarette) and Ernie tries to put it out with a martini that of course only makes it worse.

  • Reviewed December 13, 1997

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